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  Wikipedia: Basil

Wikipedia: Basil
Basil
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

This article is about basil the plant and herb. For other uses of the word basil'', see basil (disambiguation).

Basil
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Ocimum
Species
O. basilicum
O. campechianum
O. canum
O. gratissimum
O. kilimandscharicum
O. tenuiflorum
Ref: ITIS 32626 2002-08-03
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) (also known as Albahaca, American Dittany, Our Herb, St. Joseph's Wort, Sweet Basil and Witches' Herb) is a tender annual herb. The most commonly used varieties are sweet basil and Thai basil. Other varieties include Purple Ruffles, Mammoth, Cinnamon, Lemon, Globe, and African Blue. The original variety is from Tropical Asia, and is known in India as the Holy Basil or Tulasi (Ocimum sanctum = O. tenuiflorum). This is camphoric and rarely used in the kitchen. A tea made from the leaves is used as a remedy for cold in India.

Basil is a low-growing annual. It has light green silky leaves and tastes somewhat like cloves, with a strong, pungent, sweet smell. Basil is very sensitive to cold.

The word basil (fr. Gk basileus, king) means "royal". The Oxford English Dictionary quotes speculations that basil may have been used in "some royal unguent, bath, or medicine".

Basil as a herb

The fresh herb can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or for a longer period in the freezer, after being blanched quickly in boiling water. Place fresh leaves in a dry jar with a pinch of salt, and cover with olive oil. The dried herb tastes utterly different, rather like curry.

Mediterranean cuisines frequently use basil, especially combined with tomato.

There are several varieties of basil grown in many regions of Asia. Most of the Asian basils have a clove-like flavor that is generally stronger than that of the Western basils. Basils are very popular in Thai cuisine. Vietnamese and Chinese also use fresh or dried basils in soups and foods.

Culinary writers opine it means "king of herbs".

Cultural aspects

The name basil may derive from the basilisk (also fr. Gk basileus), a legendary monster, because the plant was said to be a cure for its poison. Indeed, A Modern Herbal, by Mrs. M. Grieve, tells us: "The seeds have been reckoned efficacious against the poison of serpents..."

The plant has frequently been considered poisonous itself, while African legend claims it protects against scorpions. European lore sometimes claims that basil is a symbol of Satan, though in other places, like India, the plant is highly revered. Similarly, it is a symbol of love in present-day Italy, but represented hatred in ancient Greece.

In Boccaccio's Decameron a memorably morbid tale (novella V) tells of Lisabetta, whose brothers slay her lover. He appears to her in a dream and shows her where he is buried. She secretly disinters the head, and sets it in a pot of basil, which she waters with her daily tears. The pot being taken from her by her brothers, she dies of her grief not long after. The story is already told of the Longobard queen Rosalind.


See also Basil of Caesarea.

  

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
Modified by Geona